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Genes that make people tall or short 'identified': claim scientists

world Updated: Sep 30, 2010 12:50 IST

For the first time, scientists claim to have identified the genes which decide human height -- whether people are tall or short.

About 80 per cent of normal variation in human height is said to be down to genetic factors.

Now, an international team, led by Exeter University, has pinpointed hundreds of genetic mutations that account for about 10 per cent of these inherited differences, the 'Daily Express' reported.

According to the scientists, the findings are important as taller people are statistically more likely to be at risk from prostate, bladder and lung cancer, while shorter people are more likely to develop heart disease.

Lead researcher Professor Timothy Frayling said: "We know about 80 per cent of our height is down to our genes and the rest is environmental such as nutrition and childhood infections which have reduced in the last hundred years, meaning we have all got taller.

"We hope our findings will help shed light on some developmental problems and some of the genes we have found also overlap with increased risks of cancer. Some subtle links have been found at a population level between height and risks of disease so this is further scope for important research."

Team member Prof Joel Hirschhorn of Boston added: "Height clearly has a lot to do with genetics. Shorter parents tend to have shorter children, and taller parents tend to have taller children.

"This paper is the biggest step forward to date in understanding which of the genetic variants account for our differences in height. We all carry many different variants that each make us slightly taller or shorter."

The study, published in 'Nature' journal, pooled data from 180000 people in US, Europe and Australia.